From the Darlington & Stockton Times of August 26, 1871

WHEN Samuel Edmunds, a navvie from Staffordshire, arrived at Matthew Ackroyd’s remote farm at West House, near Kildale, above Great Ayton on the North York Moors, looking for work, Matthew took him on, the D&S Times reported 150 years ago.

Edmunds worked well that first day, and that evening, the two men spent some time in the kitchen chatting before, at 9pm, Matthew helped him to his bed: a rough affair made of straw in the granary. As Matthew left, Edmunds was undressing, and all appeared well with the world.

But at 9.30pm, Edmunds appeared naked at the farmhouse door, armed with a “heavy breaking bridle” which he was using to smash windows while shouting at how he wished to kill all inside.

Matthew barricaded the doors while his servant slipped out to find help.

Despite the remoteness of the farmhouse – which still stands – some people had heard the commotion and were rushing down the railway line from New Row, in Kildale, to help.

They found Edmunds, naked and screaming, on a railway bridge and now armed with a 5ft oak pole, which he crashed onto the skull of Francis Wilkinson, 46, of New Row. Francis died soon afterwards.

“Edmunds was eventually secured after a very severe struggle at Kildale village about two miles from the scene of the murder,” said the D&S, “and brought in a cart to the lock-up at Stokesley where he had to be strapped down.”

He was in a “wild and uproarious” state for several days, and it transpired that he had worked in a Guisborough ironstone mine for four months before going on a week-long bender. The D&S said he was an ex-soldier who had been branded with the letters D and BC – D for “deserter” and BC for “bad character”.

An inquest was held at West House Farm, and the jury found Edmunds guilty of “wilful murder”. He was taken to Northallerton jail ahead of his trial at York, where he was sentenced to death.

The unfortunate Francis, who left a wife and two children, was buried in Guisborough.